Why Eskinder deserved the Barbara Goldsmith Freedom Pen Award?

Considering his toil for freedom of expression, it might not be surprising to hear that Eskinder Nega won PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom award. Besides, Pen international have had enough reasons to honor him, but I think that shouldn’t stop you from hearing my reasons why Eskinder Nega deserved the Barbara Goldsmith Freedom I’ll try my best to explain why.
Let me start with my own plight in writing this piece; online and offline friends have been continuously warning me not write about Eskinder for one thing he is now faces terrorism charges, and if convicted the same charge will turn against me as most journalists were accused of using journalism profession to support terrorism; for another, there is a high risk of being labeled as an enemy of state by sycophantic members of the ruling party.
People who intimately track even the smallest amount of retreat or progress of Ethiopian journalism in a rugged Ethiopia’s media landscape might be well aware of the fact that Ethiopian journalists are usually divided along with major journalistic contours of views as pro-government and critical journalists. Some say Ethiopia’s journalism is in the state of brink as government’s tough fists over press have ever been increasing since the contentious election of 2005. Others argue government has changed the spotlight of the press to more positive governmental ventures with the China’s technical help. Recently Mohamed Keita in his article on New York Times highlights that China has been deepening technical and media ties with African governments (Ethiopian) to counter the kind of critical press coverage that both parties demonize as neocolonialist [sic]. Still others say that there is a phantom of critical journalism in Ethiopia with the help of few fearless journalists who are loyal to accuracy, independence, fairness, transparency – core values of journalism. For me it is graceful to pick Eskinder Nega as one of those who are working in gloomy and ever thinning critical journalistic conventions of Ethiopia. In fact Eskinder is not the only gem of tattered Ethiopian modern day journalism, my favorite stalwarts of Addis Neger journalists, Dawit Kebede, Wubeshet Taye and of course Reyot Alemu are all creditable for their daring attempt in becoming alternative voices in Ethiopian media landscape. But Eskinder is a highly remarkable emblem for freedom of expression. In a time when many journalists not succeeded in enduring horrendous pressures from a range of interest groups, both financially and politically, Eskinder was something of a matchless: a well-behaved and top end professional who did not succumb to either exile and or silence.
Eskinder who started his ply in Ethiopian journalism with his first newspaper, Ethiopis, was among the first newspapers of the then flourishing Ethiopia’s independent media. Then followed by Asqual, Satenaw, and Menelik unfortunately all of them shut down by authorities. Then he has turned to be a columnist for varies media. This signals he has done everything possible the country’s political system has offered for critical journalists like him.
I used to read Eskinder’s journalistic and opinion pieces before his incarceration with enthusiasm. Most of his works are great journalistic piece of work. Despite a number of barriers to disconnect Eskinder from public, his works are still available thanks to social media and his own effort. His English and Amharic works are well-written and authoritative. Eskinder’s journalistic career illustrates a predicament of all Ethiopia’s critical voices that is situated in the political, social and economic context in which I myself experiencing. Eskinder’s case presents how inequitable Ethiopia’s media is and how things such as freedom of thought that are taken for granted even in our neighbor Kenya is isolated unjustly from Ethiopia. His career is filled with allegations, incarcerations and intimidations and all because of foibles and frailties of government. Eskinder is extremely passionate for freedom of expression and other human rights justice—a man who gave his life to the cause of justice. There is no a reservation or whatsoever that his life makes a significant contribution to Ethiopian journalism.

2 Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more!! Thanks for remembering The Man.His contribution will not be forgotten even if they put him behind bars he will shine like never before even and it will be a headache for the ruling party till they let him free. Soon we will see him waking his dreams.

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